ALERT: Summer

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel pretty behind on Summer. It’s mid-June, I’m wearing tights, and my scorecard looks like this:

Barbeques: 1
Sunburn: 1 bout, mild, on the shoulders
Afternoons spent laid out on the grass: Half
Times at which sunglasses were genuinely needed: 1
Magnum ice creams: 756*

So, amen to this. And amen to Nathan Rao at The Express for saying it:

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Get the razor and fake tan out, gals.

Apparently “temperatures are poised to skyrocket over the next 48 hours as a plume of sweltering air sweeps in from the tropics”. Say no more, Nathan. If you, like me, are now panicking about your lack of Summer preparation, here’s a selection of lovely fun items you can pick up from supermarkets and retail parks on your lunch break, for emergency barbeques and frolics that are long overdue. They’re all pretty cheap, too.

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Strawberry napkins, Sainsburys; BBQ napkins, Sainsburys; Grey picnic rug, Wilko; Pink faux plant tray, Primark; Citronella bamboo torch, The Range; Fruiti wine goblet, The Range; Three ice cream cones, Wilko; Havana stripe bowl, The Range; Pineapple glass jar, The Range; Glow in the dark mushroom stake, The Range; Floral bunting, Wilko.

* Never weather-dependent

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Revealed: The new bathroom

It’s been a couple of months since we nervously chipped the first granny tile off the bathroom wall, and – after a lot of grouting, a leaky toilet and two attempts at choosing flooring – we can now declare this new, fresh bathroom officially open. What we had was perfectly fine, but tired and old fashioned. Here’s a reminder:

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And here’s what we have now:

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Paul and his dad deserve a special mention here, for tiling, grouting and laying the floor, and generally saving us loads on the cost of professional fitters.We also got the trendy metro tiles really cheap, having seen exactly the same design for much more in shops like Topps Tiles. We haven’t had any issues with the quality and they look great.

We also removed and scrubbed the taps as they were clogged with limescale, so bath time is officially back on, and added some aqua accessories to lift the blue.

Tiles: Metro white wall tiles (16p/tile) from Stone Trader
Grout: Silver grey ready mixed grout (£7.69/1.5kg) from Topps Tiles
Vinyl flooring: Carpetright (£13.49/m2) from Carpetright
Paint: Maritime Hush by Valspar
Towels: From a selection at Home Sense
Handwash and toothbrush pots: Asda
Artificial plant: Asda
Candles: From a selection at Home Sense

The home wishlist

Do you have a room or feature that you’d love in your future home?

I remember falling madly in love with Cher’s outfit planner and revolving wardrobe in Clueless. So much so that I spent a (wasted) afternoon trying to draw every item of my clothing in Microsoft Paint, so that I could create something similar…

The impact of the new Cher, when I started watching Sex and the City, was similar. I’m sure, even if Carrie’s colour or clothing tastes didn’t suit every viewer, we all wished for a space dedicated to dressing, preening in the mirror and generally feeling fabulous. We all work so hard that a hint of self-indulgence every morning as we get dressed is an essential.

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So, while we don’t, and probably never will, have the space or budget to go all out with a dressing room in our house, it makes it onto my future home wishlist:

  • Dressing room
  • Huge, open plan kitchen with sofa for entertaining
  • Roll top bath looking out through a floor to ceiling window
  • A view – hills, sea or city

In a bit of a showgirl mood (hence the feathers below), I planned out my dream dressing room. Naturally, it involves some sort of my standard blue and grey colour scheme, but pulls in more dramatic gold elements and luxurious textures like velvet. A dark wooden floor would pull this all together, with one wall in cream and gold wallpaper (Kelly Hoppen at Graham and Brown), and the rest in B&Q’s Blue Thistle. Statement features like the Arhaus mirror and lights, and lots of little hits of bling add the kind of opulence you can really go for in a dedicated dressing room.

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Lovely items from:

Blue Thistle paint, B&Q; Geo wallpaper, Graham and Brown; Letter hooks, Dunelm; Mirror, Arhaus; Hemisphere chandelier, Arhaus; Velvet sofa, Next; Crushed velvet cushion, TK Maxx; Yolanda rug, Made.com.

What room or feature would you have in your dream home? Share it in the comments below – I can’t help with it, but it would be interesting to hear!

We need to talk about the bathroom

Hello, and welcome to our bathroom…

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Instead of giving each other big Christmas presents this year, we agreed to put most of our budgets towards the next house project – our upstairs bathroom, which has been lying dormant with its gammy hot water tap (no lounging around in the bath for me), perfectly nice but old fashioned tiles and peeling bath panel since we moved in.

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To keep costs down – around £350 if we do the work ourselves – we’re keeping the original fixtures but replacing everything else. Here’s what’s left to do:

  • Hope that gammy tap is caused by nothing more than a dodgy washer and replace all taps with fresh chrome ones
  • Replace tiles with white brick tiles. We had LOVED crackle glaze putty coloured tiles but quickly learnt that when it comes to tiles, white is always cheaper. Putty has been earmarked for “the next house” 😉
  • Replace shimmery lino with simple rustic wood effect vinyl
  • Buy and fit replacement bath panel, which doesn’t seem to cost a great deal but who the hell knows how you fit this kind of thing?!
  • Give all fixtures a damn good scrub and polish
  • The fun bit – buy new towels, shelves, accessories and artwork. I’m painfully aware that 90% of our house is grey and that our ‘Maritime hush’ choice is not far from it, so am deliberately pushing our colour boundaries with a peacock feather theme. Think teal, blue, navy and golds…

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Lovely items from:
Zigzag bath mat, M&S; Blue candlestick holder, Maisons du Monde; Peacock print inspiration, Papier; Blue agate bookend, TK Maxx; Green glass vase, H&M; Print towels, Asda; Peacock feather artwork, art.co.uk; Vinyl flooring, Carpetright; Paint – Maritime Hush by Valspar.

Stylists at home: Karl Grant

This month, I’ve been lucky enough to feature in Style at Home magazine, sharing thoughts and tips on readers’ homes.

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On the panel with me were five fellow interior enthusiasts, and over the next few weeks, I’ll be chatting to them and sharing their own interior tales with you.

karl-grantFirst up is Karl Grant from Bedfordshire, who is studying at the British Academy of Interior Design and runs an online homeware boutique – The Whitewash Hare.

He lives in a converted chapel which was built in 1807 and rebuilt in the ’90s, maintaining the external style but introducing a new open plan layout and upstairs gallery: “When we were looking to move from our previous home, we were ready for something that had straight walls and plaster that wasn’t made of horse hair.. but couldn’t overcome the allure of old school houses, chapels and toll buildings.”

 

Karl Grant1.JPGTell us a bit more about The Old Chapel
For us, it represented the perfect compromise between modern build and character home, plus its village location is perfect for raising our young daughter, and happily growing into an old recluse couple.

The original build had cut a few corners in terms of finishing – skirting boards, doors, frames etc. We discovered that one window frame wasn’t fitted to the building itself and the steps leading to the double front doors had all but collapsed. Rebuilding them was complicated as we live in a conservation area, and I still think the local community believed we neglected them to reduce the risk of them turning up uninvited.

How would you sum up your style?
Eccentric British quirkiness built on the foundations of neutral modern country.

Which is your favourite room in the house?
It sounds odd, but right now it’s the downstairs guest bathroom (below) – often the forgotten workhorse! It’s a quirky take on industrial chic which gives a gentle nod to the history of the chapel. The dummy drawer handles, shoelast and obligatory Singer sewing machine give a subtle sense of British eccentricity, but the key piece has to be the vintage drawer wallpaper from Debbie McKeegan British Design. The relationship between the textured paper and photo realistic print is utterly fantastic.

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Where do you take your inspiration from?
The unique personalities of the home owner should be the biggest inspiration, but they must remain sensitive to the property type and the surrounding environment. My mood changes a lot (according to my wife) and I’m inspired by so many things I see on TV, in fashion magazines, in hotels and trendy bars or boutique gastro pubs. The important thing is to show constraint – I’m not keen on seeing a 1960’s mid terrace town house on the outside, with a glorious French cottage shabby chic style on the inside.

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Where do you find your vintage items?
Ebay is surprisingly impressive in this area, and I love to visit antique stores and ‘collectors barns’. Unfortunately there aren’t many of these nearby, so it usually consists of weekends away – which in the cold hard light of day probably explains why my wife is so supportive.

Sometimes it can be pure luck. I have a good friend who frequently gives me things she finds in one of her dad’s outbuildings. One of my favourite pieces is a Kenlite workman’s lamp that she gave me. I stripped and polished it, added some fairy lights and turned it into a lamp.  Her dad couldn’t understand why anyone would want some old rusty lamps that were ready for the scrap yard, but for me, upcycling and repurposing items is a wonderful way to be creative.

My advice is always start by exploring what’s nearest to where you live…and don’t expect that everyone has the same vision as you. If you think something will look great go for it, and don’t let other people’s doubts put you off.

What’s the next big interiors trend?
I think the next trend will counter the neutrals that are so popular right now, with people playing with vibrancy, and warm colours like terracota coming into play. This also lends itself to people feeling more comfortable moving away from traditional white ceilings.

What is your one tip for creating a great room?
I always find that good room schemes follow a 70/20/10 rule. Keep 70% of the room (eg walls and floors) as one colour, 20% in a second colour (eg prints and fabrics) and the final 10% (eg accessories) more vibrant. It’s much simpler and cheaper to change the room look when you only have to worry about 30% of the room.

I also live by the rule of presenting accessories in multiples of 3, 5 and 9, as humans seem to respond better to seeing things presented in odd numbers. I always find great impact is achieved presenting three framed pictures in a row over one single larger piece.

And finally, what do you make of one recent trend – hygge?
Hygge is a great move away from the harshness of the industrial chic movement that was being rammed down our throats a few years back. It is also a natural amalgamation of the Scandi look and the current focus on personal mindfulness and wellbeing. From a design perspective and due to their focus on warmth, soft textures and neutral colours, hygge-styles rooms can also make absolute eye candy.

Him vs. her: The dream kitchen 

We dipped our toes into A Big House Project last weekend, as we strayed into the kitchen section of B&Q.

After doing an initial walk round the different ranges with an assistant and pointing out what we liked, we had a meeting with their kitchen designer. He created the size and shape of our kitchen on screen and one by one added in our units. Here’s where we got to – a relatively modest but clean and modern shaker kitchen, with walnut worktop:kitchen mock up.JPG

Then came the serious bit – how much would it cost us and do we want to take the plunge? *Deep breath* We’re looking at about £9.5k for the whole caboodle at B&Q, and a rough estimate at Wren came out at about £6k, so whichever we choose, it’s going to need some saving first.

So we (I) thought we’d get ahead and plan out our perfect kitchen, which we might not be able to afford unit-wise, but could definitely aim for in terms of overall style and feel. Paul’s done one and I’ve done the other but which do you think is which, and (most importantly!) which do you prefer?

White and sage:

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Rustic shaker:

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Black Friday: Where to get the homeware goodies

Here we go, ladies and gents – we’ve started our descent into Black Friday. Are you ready?

I’ve never gone in for the crack-of-dawn trip to the shops, or jostled my way through an angry crowd for a sound bar, but I am partial to a mild online frenzy in the privacy of my own home.

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With a lot of retailers starting their offers early – like, now – there’s more of a chance to get ahead. And there’s good news for interiors fans too, as HotUKDeals has revealed that while tech items were on average 31% cheaper last year, less traditional products like home items were discounted by up to 50%. Kerching.

So here’s a round up of homeware deals that are live now, or due to hit on Friday. Happy shopping!

Amazon is the King of Black Friday, having sold more than 7.4 million items on the big day last year. Its deals are live now, and will end just before midnight on Black Friday, covering home accessories, tech, beauty products, fashion and toys.

Argos has already started its 13 days of Black Friday deals, covering tech, toys and home. The home sale offers up to 50% off a mixture of practical items (vacuums, slow cookers, washing machines, fridges, tools) and fun stuff (sofas, dining tables and chairs, Christmas trees and Christmas lights/decorations).

You can also save 25% when you spend £150 or more on indoor furniture, using the code FURN25.

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Above: HOME 2 Water Hyacinth Cubes (£14.99), Christmas tree decorations (in a range of colours) (£4.99), Salter dashboard body analyser scales (£14.99), Breville Blend-Active Pro Blender (£25.99).

B&Q already has a number of deals on and will do until 1st December. They’re probably not the most fun items, but if you’re looking for a shower, or urban concrete floor tiles, or a towel warmer (come on, it happens to the best of us) get in there!

Debenhams has its Black Friday deals live online already, to appear in store tomorrow (Tuesday 22nd). They have up to 30% off bedding, 30% OFF ALL YANKEE CANDLES and up to half price on furniture like this with an extra 10% off:

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House of Fraser will be running deals on fashion and home items, and recommends you sign up to its emails to find out more before Friday. It’s revealed a few items in advance, though – its Sienna champagne saucers (set of six) will be half price at £30, and the 3-piece copper pan will be down from £220 to £150. LUSH.

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John Lewis will reveal offers on homeware, electricals and technology at around midnight on Thursday, with more being launched “as we respond to competitor promotions”. Very mysterious, John!

Matalan has its up to half price sale in-store and online now, but is revealing one homeware offer every day from today. Today, it’s the Dorchester Light, down from £69 to £19, but it looks like they’re only offering a limited number of each. Here’s the daily deal.

M&S is another one playing it slightly cool – but it does have a Black Friday landing page ready to go. Last year it reduced sofas, bedding and towels, in fact, I remember trying to get towels last year and everything but face cloths was gone, so PREPARE. Click here for towels and here for bedding.

And all is well. Let me know if you find any bargains!